After Trump Calls His Former Defense Secretary 'The World’s Most Overrated General,' Mattis Smacks Back at Al Smith Dinner

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, smiles as President Donald Trump meets with members of his Cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House, Monday, March 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)


During President Trump’s contentious meeting with Congressional leaders on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) read aloud a comment General James “Mad Dog” Mattis had made in a weekend appearance on “Meet the Press.” Mattis, Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, had remarked that if the U.S. does not keep a troop presence in northern Syria, ISIS would resurge.

Trump allegedly responded that Mattis was the “world’s most overrated general.” He added, “He wasn’t tough enough. I captured ISIS. Mattis said it would take two years. I captured them in one month.”

Last night, during his keynote speech at the 74th annual Al Smith Memorial Foundation dinner in Manhattan, Mattis shot back at Trump. Here are a few of the General’s barbs.

I’m not just an overrated general. I’m the greatest, the world’s most overrated.

I’m honored to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress. So I guess I’m the Meryl Streep of generals, and frankly that sounds pretty good to me.

And you do have to admit that between me and Meryl, at least we’ve had some victories.

(Note: After actress Meryl Streep attacked Trump prior to his inauguration, he tweeted that she was one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood.)

Mattis continued, “I think the only person in the military that Mr. Trump doesn’t think is overrated is Colonel Sanders.”

In reference to the bone spurs Trump claimed to have had in both feet which prevented him from serving in the Vietnam War, Mattis joked, “I earned my spurs on the battlefield; Donald Trump earned his spurs from the doctor.”


Still, we can’t be too hard on the General; he’s been fairly reluctant to criticize Trump publicly since his resignation last December over major policy differences. In fact, Mattis has been surprisingly critical of several of Obama’s foreign policy decisions.

Surprisingly, two anti-Trumpers took issue with Mattis’ remarks.

Susan Hennessey, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and executive editor of the Lawfare blog, tweeted “I know he’s speaking at a dinner meant for jokes, but this is just an absurd and undignified way for Mattis to make his first public critiques of the president. After indefensible silence, this will surely undercut the gravity of any future words he might have on the subject.”

Thomas M. Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island, said he “did not think the speech was an occasion for laughter. I don’t think anyone should be chuckling at Mattis’s brush off of Trump’s insult. It’s his facile way of dodging the reality that he knows a lot about what happened in this White House, including what are now obviously impeachable acts directly related to his time as SECDEF.”

According to the Washington Post:

Since leaving Trump’s Cabinet, the former defense secretary has remained mostly mum on U.S. foreign and military policy. Even in his recently released memoir, “Call Sign Chaos,” the military leader refrains from discussing much of his time within the Trump administration. Mattis has hinted that one day he may speak out against Trump’s policy decisions more directly, saying he does not owe the president his silence “forever.”


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